Meaning of The Message by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

“The Message made us take hip-hop seriously,” said producer Jiggs Chase, who was directly involved in the creation of the composition, in the most famous song of the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Judging by the top lines that she occupies in authoritative ratings, critics and music lovers also highly appreciated her significance in the history of modern music.

The song, whose title translates as “Message”, told the world about that America that they did not even want to mention on official radio and television. Crime, drugs, prostitutes, prison, death at a young age – such problems were in the order of things for the inhabitants of poor neighborhoods. “The Message” encouraged many residents of more prosperous areas to take notice as well. She changed hip hop to a more serious music and attracted a white audience to it.

Here is what Jiggs Chase told about the history of its creation:

One evening I came to Ed Fletcher’s house and said: “We need to write something.” He lay on the couch with his leg dangling over the edge, smoking a joint, and said, “Don’t push me, I’m on the edge and I’m trying not to break loose.” And then I exclaimed: “Oh my God, here it is!” We got it, he just came up with the song’s refrain.

The Guardian

Although all members of the Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are considered co-authors of the composition, only Ed Fletcher and Mallie Mael took part in the work on the text. Ed explained the main idea of ​​the song “The Message” as follows:

The neighborhood I grew up in, the things I saw, it all felt like the slums in Elizabeth, New Jersey at times. Despite the fact that we lived in a good area, right from the windows of the living room I could observe what was happening on the other side of the street in the park. The lyrics of the song are kind of cinematic: I tried to convey a message to society.

Rappers were in their early twenties and were writing nice, upbeat songs that you could hang out to, so it was something completely new. Luckily, Sylvia [label manager Sugar Hill Records Sylvia Robinson] had enough power and insight to release it. Grandmaster Flash himself did not participate in the recording of the song. He thought people wouldn’t want to listen to that kind of shit. It just pissed off Mally Mal.

I wanted to do something different in terms of music and lyrics. She had to think about it for a long time. I called it trance music – the melody has an asymmetric structure, but the bass part stays the same all the time. Usually the song has one refrain and verses, but “Don’t push me, ‘cos I’m close to the edge” is one refrain and “It’s like a jungle sometimes” is another one. I was listening to Brian Eno’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” at the time, so I used a lot of electronic effects and drum sounds.

The Guardian

Many participants in the studio work on “The Message” subsequently said that they immediately recognized the future hit. When the finished recording was taken to Frankie Crocker, one of New York’s hottest radio DJs, he put it on the air the next day, and a week and a half later it went gold.

The song was released as a single on July 1, 1982. It later became the title track of the band’s first studio album.

It is hardly possible to list all the films, series, computer games, television programs and commercials in which “The Message” sounds – just like remembering all the musicians who performed the composition.

Rolling Stone magazine named it the greatest hip-hop track of all time and included it in their famous list of the 500 Most Significant Songs. It also ranks in several other rankings: #3 on’s Top 100 Rap Songs, #5 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Rap Songs, and so on.

Interesting Facts

  • Phil Collins said that “The Message” was one of the inspirations for the song “Mama”.

The Message lyrics by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under
I wonder how I manage to survive Broken glass everywhere
People pissin’ on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car
People piss on the steps, you know they just don’t care
I can’t stand this smell, I can’t stand this noise
No money to move, I guess I have no choice
Rats right in the living room, cockroaches in the back room
In the alleyways, junkies with baseball bats
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
Because the guy on the tow truck took my Chorus car:
Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under
Don’t push me, I’m on the edge
And I try not to break
Sometimes here, like in the jungle,
Wonder how I survive Standin’ on the front stoop hangin’ out the window
Watchin’ all the cars go by, roarin’ as the breezes blow
Crazy lady, livin’ in a bag
Eatin’ outta garbage pails, used to be a punk
Said she’ll dance the tango, skip the light fandango
A Zircon princess seemed to lose her senses
Down at the peep show watchin’ all the creeps
So she can tell her stories to the girls back home
She went to the city and got so so seditty
She had to get a pimp, she couldn’t make it on her own
I look at the passing cars, whose engines roar in the wind
To the crazy woman who lives in a bag
And eats from the garbage, and used to hang out with blue
She said that she would dance the tango, bypassing the easy fandango
It looks like the zircon princess has gone crazy
On a peep show looking at all these scumbags
So she can tell her stories to the girls at home
She came to town and got too high of herself
She had to find a pimp, because she herself did not achieve anything

My brother’s doin’ bad, stole my mother’s TV
Says she watches too much, it’s just not healthy
All My Children in the daytime, Dallas at night
Can’t even see the game or the Sugar Ray fight
The bill collectors, they ring my phone
And scare my wife when I’m not home
Got a boom education, double-digit inflation
Can’t take the train to the job, there’s a strike at the station
Neon King Kong standin’ on my back
Can’t stop to turn around, broke my sacroiliac
A mid-range migraine, cancerous membrane
Sometimes I think I’m goin’ insane
I swear I might hijack a plane!
Says she watches him too much and that’s bad
“My children” in the afternoon, and “Dallas” in the evening
You can’t even watch a match or fight with Sugar Ray
Debt collectors call me all the time
And bully the wife when I’m not at home
Got a crappy education and inflation is already double digits
Can’t get to work by train because there’s a strike at the station
Neon King Kong 2 around my neck
No time to stop and rest, already tore my back
Suffering from migraine, brain tumor
Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy
I swear I’m ready to hijack a plane! My son said daddy I don’t wanna go to school
Cause the teacher’s a jerk, he must think I’m a fool
And all the kids smoke reefer, I think it’d be cheaper
If I just got a job, learned to be a street sweeper
I dance to the beat, shuffle my feet
Wear a shirt and tie and run with the creeps
Cause it’s all about money, ain’t a damn thing funny
You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey
They push that girl in front of a train
Took her to a doctor, sowed the arm on again
Stabbed that man, right in his heart
Gave him a transplant for a brand new start
I can’t walk through the park, cause it’s crazy after the dark
Keep my hand on the gun cause they got me on the run
I feel like an outlaw, broke my last glass jaw
Hear them say you want some more
Livin’ on a seasaw My son said, “Dad, I don’t want to go to school
‘Cause the teacher is an idiot, he thinks I’m a jerk
And all the kids smoke joints. I think it will be cheaper
If I just get a job, learn how to sweep the streets.
Or I’ll dance while making a pretzel
I’ll wear a shirt and tie and start rubbing with pickpockets
‘Cause it’s all about the money, it’s not a joke
Indeed, without a coin, it is tight on these jelly banks of milk rivers.
The girl was pushed under the train
Then they took her to the doctor and sewed her arm back
They stabbed a guy right in the heart
Gave him a transplant so he could start over
I can’t walk in the park because after dark it’s crazy
I keep my hands on the barrel, because they are chasing me
I feel like an outlaw, I got my jaw broken again
Heard them say, “Do you want more?”
I live like I’m on a swing A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smilin’ on you but he’s frownin’ too
Because only God knows what you’ll go through
You’ll grow in the ghetto livin’ second-rate
And your eyes will sing a song called deep hate
The places you play and where you stay
Looks like one great big alleyway
You’ll admire all the number-book takers
Thugs, pimps and pushers and the big money-makers
Drivin’ big cars, spendin’ twenties and tens
And you’ll wanna grow up to be just like them, huh
Smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers
Pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers
You say I’m cool, huh, I’m no fool
But then you wind up droppin’ outta high school
Now you’re unemployed, all null and void
Walkin’ round like you’re Pretty Boy Floyd
Turned stick-up kid, but look what you did did
Got sent up for a eight-year bid
Now your manhood is taken and you’re a Maytag
Spend the next two years as a undercover punk
Bein’ used and abused to serve like hell
Til one day, you was found hung dead in the cell
It was plain to see that your life was lost
You were cold and your body swung back and forth
But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song
Of how you lived so fast and died so young so
Not understanding people
God smiles at you, but he also frowns,
‘Cause only He knows what you’ll go through
You’ll grow up in the ghetto, lead a second-rate life
Hate will flow from your eyes
Places where you will play and live
Reminds me of one huge doorway
You will admire the swindlers
Killers, pimps, drug dealers and rich men
Who drive big cars, pay in twenties and tens
And you will want to grow up just like them –
Smugglers, swindlers, robbers, swindlers,
Pickpockets, even beggars
You say: “I’m cool, I’m not stupid”
But then you end up getting kicked out of school
Now you’re unemployed and no one needs you at all
Roam around like Pretty Boy Floyd
Went to looting, look what you’ve done
Imprisoned for eight years
You’re no longer a man – you’ve been let down
Spent the next two years as a secret rooster
You’ve been used and humiliated like hell
Until one day in a cell you were found in a noose
It was clear that your life was over
You were already cold, and your body was rocking back and forth
Now in your eyes only sadness
Because you lived so fast and died so early

  • An allusion to a line from the song “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum. In this case, apparently, the offer to provide services of a sexual nature is implied.
  • We are talking about the Empire State Building, which King Kong climbed in the famous movie.
  • Notorious bank robber during the Great Depression.

Song quote

This song hit you like a fist. Grandmaster Flash were the first dominant rap group with the first dominant MC to say something that actually made sense.

Chuck D, Rolling Stone

Rap was music for boasting and boasting, but he [Ed Fletcher] turned it in the other direction.

Add a comment